Science Says “Calories Count” for a Sensible Weigh to Weight Loss

ATLANTA (April 13, 2009) — It seems the old adage; “You are what you eat” is a little off.  According to research recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it isn’t what you eat, but how much. Results from the two-year study, which assigned 811 overweight participants to one of four reduced-calorie diets, found that from a weight loss perspective it didn’t matter what foods the participants ate, but how many calories they consumed.

These findings are in line with a 2008 study by Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research which found that keeping a food diary can double a person’s weight loss. However, the current study “really goes against the idea that certain foods are the key to weight loss,” notes Frank Sacks, principal investigator and professor of cardiovascular-disease prevention at Harvard School of Public Health. “This is a pretty positive message.  It gives people a lot of choices to find a diet they can stick with.”

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grouped participants into one of four diets: two low fat and two high fat.  All four included either a high-protein or an average-protein component.  Typical diets in the study had between 1,400 and 2,000 calories a day.  All the diets were low in calories and saturated fat while high in fiber, and participants were instructed to exercise for 90 minutes per week.  Participants who attended counseling sessions initially lost an average of 13 pounds after six months and, after two years, had lost approximately nine pounds and two inches off their waist lines, regardless of diet grouping.  In the current study, participants used a Web-based, self-monitoring tool that tracked how their daily food intake matched their calorie goals. Catherine Loria, a nutritional epidemiologist at the NIH and study co-author notes that, in addition to making healthful food choices, “all you have to do is count your calories.”

So what does this mean for the 54 percent of U.S. adults that are currently trying to reduce their weight and the many more currently striving to maintain weight, according to a recent nationally projectable survey conducted by the Calorie Control Council? Registered dietitian Keith Ayoob notes that healthful weight loss/maintenance boils down to choosing a balanced diet that can be maintained, “for the long haul.”  Leading Health Authorities agree, and the American Heart Association suggests, “Substitute lower-calorie foods for high-calorie foods.” You can subtract calories by making small but effective changes in your daily eating patterns.  Even cutting just 100 calories per day, such as substituting a low fat version of a favorite food or a low calorie sweetener in place of sugar, could mean big changes in a person’s health and waist line.  According to Dr. George Blackburn, ”Those 100 calories add up to 10 pounds a year.  Small changes in caloric intake can result in small but meaningful healthier weights.  Most people would be happy with that.”

To view the study abstract click here.

faq2Do you have questions about low-calorie sweeteners? Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? You asked and we listened. Our resident Registered Dietitians answered the most popular questions about low-calorie sweeteners.

Media Contacts